EAST LANSING, Mich. — The casual MSU soccer fan has had good reason to become excited about the early successes of the Michigan State women’s soccer team.
After all, with their perfect 6-0 home record, the Spartans were quickly becoming one of the most promising programs to follow on campus. Unfortunately for MSU however, it seems that all good things must come to an end.
This old adage proved true on Sunday, as the MSU women’s soccer team fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes by a score of 3-0.
The loss ended the Spartans perfect record on their home DeMartin Field, and moved them to a somber conference record of 1-3-1.
For a Spartan team that started the season so strong and optimistic coming out of the gate, it’s been nothing short of disheartening to watch their recent struggles.
Michigan State won seven of their eight non-conference games to start the season, including pitching three shutouts and allowed only four goals at home.
Throughout those games the Spartans had several players shine, with players such as Wahlberg, Evans and Stephens receiving national recognition and conference honors.
Then came the onset of the Big Ten schedule. Michigan State fell in its first two conference road matches, including a shutout against Ohio State and an ugly 5-1 loss to No. 23 ranked Penn State.
The slippery downhill slide continued with the postponement of the Indiana match due to hazardous conditions at DeMartin Field, and the loss of leading scorer Gia Wahlberg due to injury in a 0-0 double overtime contest with Minnesota.
Playing without Wahlberg, the Spartans then fell for the first time at home against the 12-2 Hawkeyes, again scoreless.
And the road isn’t looking any easier.
The Spartans stand at the precipice of the remainder of an intimidating Big Ten conference schedule, including hosting top ranked Michigan at home in just two short weeks.
“The parity in the Big Ten, we’re certainly experiencing that everywhere we go,” MSU head coach Tom Saxton said. “We’re going to have an opportunity to win every game. They’re all available to us but you have to make critical plays.”
The Spartans certainly have shown the capacity to play well in big games, shutting out Purdue at home a week ago for their first conference victory of the season.
But MSU with or without Gia Wahlberg are two completely different teams.
And with no timeline for Wahlberg’s return, how long can the Spartans survive in the ruthless Big Ten schedule? Saxton, however, was quick to dismiss notions of Wahlberg’s absence being attributed to the Spartan’s scoreless loss on Sunday.
“No excuses there. Obviously we’d love to have Gia back as soon as possible, but we’re not going to put that on the game today.”
Despite the tough turn of events in recent weeks, Spartan nation still has plenty of reason to believe in this Michigan State women’s soccer team.
As MSU now goes out on a two-game road trip before finishing off the regular season with four straight at home, Coach Saxton remains confident in his team’s abilities.
“We’re not going to get discouraged from our mission of going to the postseason,” said Saxton. “We believe one hundred percent we can do that. We’ve got four of the last six at home. We will bounce back.”